It is amazing to see how things that sometimes you take from granted and maybe not important for, make such a big impact on your life. For me, and I hope I represent correctly the Hillel of Silicon Valley students, this lecture opened my eyes and gave me an opportunity to look at my heritage in a way I never thought of before.
I really enjoy the first part of the lecture, when you asked the students “Who knows Yiddish phrases?” and many words were said. It was very interesting for me to see that many students, without even realizing that, use Yiddish in their everyday life. Even more interesting was their participation and cooperation in the active part of the program, and weren’t embarrassed doing the moves with you.
This program was very powerful and showed me that everyday gestures and phrases are a direct connection to our Jewish legacy. Many of the students, like me, enjoyed that and often hear from them how this program impacted them.
Rachel Duchin, Hillel of Silicon Valley, Jewish Agency for Israel Fellow (Emissary)
I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation regarding your new book. Your presentation style was informative, funny, and delightfully quirky. I think the talk generated considerable interest in your book, and your discussion of the publication process was just what we needed given the academic nature of our audience. Your use of Tai Chi to learn language is creative and a downright fun way to achieve multiple goals at once - experience the many benefits of Tai Chi while learning a new language. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors with the book and all else.
Dr. Greg Payne, Associate Dean, College of Applied Sciences and Arts, San Jose State University
Our group thoroughly enjoyed having Harvey as a guest speaker at our March 11, 2012 Silicon Valley Holocaust Survivors Association brunch.
His decades of teaching at the college level (Gotliffe was head of the journalism department at San Jose State University) shone through as he made a lively, engaging presentation tracing the history of Yiddish, how he came to blend tai chi and Yiddish sayings in The Oy Way, and of course, plenty of kibitzing back and forth with our enthusiastic audience.
I heartily recommend bringing Harvey in for some kvetching, learning, and of course, great fun, to any group lucky enough to have him!
Joseph Sorger, President, Silicon Valley Holocaust Survivors Association
Jewish Family and Children’s Services of San Francisco and Palo Alto were pleased to welcome Yiddish speaker Dr. Harvey Gotliffe. He spoke to both of our Holocaust survivors groups (Café by the Bay) about his new book, The Oy Way.
His interesting talk was most appreciated by members of both of our groups. In fact it was wonderful to see these 80 and 90-year-old Holocaust survivors on their feet participating in his inspiring, fun and easy-to-do exercises. He was a big hit and will definitely be invited back!
Bobbi Bornstein, Volunteer Coordinator, Jewish Family and Children’s Services
Dr. Gotliffe is a dynamic speaker, whose clever book concept translates into a very enjoyable presentation. He had a couple of dozen seniors smiling through tai chi like stretches while using classic Yiddish expressions. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!
Shanda Kaplowitz, Religious School Administrator, March 8, 2012
Presentation at Congregation Shir Hadash, Los Gatos, California
Harvey Gotliffe's multi-media presentation to the Silicon Valley Holocaust Survivors Association (SVHSA) brunch program was highly stimulating!
Guests of all ages, many of whom were older adults, were on the edge of their seats engaged in learning his unique method of acquiring Yiddish words and phrases through body movements in space. His book was sold like hot cakes that day, as everyone wanted to continue their studies at home.
I recommend Harvey Gotliffe to any group looking for an interactive social event for learning a bissele of Yiddish while enjoying light movements to increase blood flow!
Shirit Megiddo, SVHSA Volunteer Program Coordinator
Working with Harvey was a terrific experience. He was pleasantly aggressive--and it paid off! He was able to conjure over 75 guests to come to his reading and he got a great article in a few of the local papers!
During the event he shared Yiddish stories and lore, as well as personal history with a calming sense of humor. The audience supported him by buying his book, and the event was memorable! I highly recommend Mr. Harvey Gotliffe for a reading at your store, synagogue or community group — you'll be glad that you did!
Tamera Walters, Events Director, Capitola Book Cafe. Capitola, CA
Harvey was a very popular presenter at the last International Association of Yiddish Clubs annual conference in Detroit. He is an Oy Way Master.
Philip “Fishl” Kutner, Der Bay, April 2012 Issue
Gotliffe shows what decades of college-level teaching can do for a speaker: produce a lively, informative, engaging presentation that brought joy to the Holocaust survivors. It was complete with handouts, audience participation, and some great takeaways to impress friends and family with your newfound Yiddish language skills.
The Oy Way presentation: Come for the Yiddish, stay for the tai chi, and enjoy Gotliffe’s heartfelt, enthusiastic spiel along the way.
Dave Clarke, Child of Holocaust Survivors, at Silicon Valley Holocaust Survivors Association
February 28, 2012
The Oy Way blends Yiddish jargon with Eastern flair
Harvey Gotliffe, a former SJSU professor, wrote a book titled The Oy Way, which pays homage to his Yiddish background and his interest in Eastern meditative exercise.
“I was inspired by teaching a class at SJSU that dealt with American media coverage of the Holocaust and the Japanese-American internment in World War II,” Gotliffe said.
Gotliffe taught at SJSU from 1986 to 2008 as the head of the Magazine Journalism Sequence, but had prior experience working as a freelance writer for 40 years.
Raised in Detroit in the 1950s, Gotliffe learned Yiddish expressions in his home, but only knew a little bit of the language itself.
“A lot of Jewish people on campus are unfamiliar with the language but know the expressions,” Gotliffe said.
According to The Oy Way, the term “Yiddish” derives from the German word for Jewish, jüdisch, and a person of Jewish descent was called ein Yid.
In addition, Gotliffe noted that there was a difference between the Yiddish languages compared to Hebrew.
“Yiddish is known as the mame loshen (mother tongue) and it’s spoken in the home.” Gotliffe said. “Hebrew is the language of the synagogue.”
Yiddish originated in Eastern Europe around a thousand years ago, and it’s a combination of Romantic languages, Slavic languages and Hebrew, according to Gotliffe.
In his book, various Yiddish expressions are combined with movements derived from tai chi.
“I’ve been taking tai chi for twenty years,” Gotliffe said. “There’s a Yiddish expression to go with each movement and there are a lot of similarities.”
One such expression portrayed in the book depicts Gotliffe extending his left hand outward while placing his right forefinger near his right eye and wriggling it.
The movement in the book is titled keyn eyn hore, or “no evil eye.”
“It’s keeping the bad influences away,” Gotliffe said.
The origins of The Oy Way came to fruition in 2000, but Gotliffe became more involved with the book around last year, spending about 650 hours in total writing the book.
According to Gotliffe, about 14 to 15 hours were spent doing research in addition to 10 hours per day writing the book.
However, Gotliffe wasn’t alone in the creation process of The Oy Way — his daughter and wife were some of the subjects in the book’s photos as well as his daughter providing pictures.
Some of the locales featured in the book ranged from Oakland to Gotliffe’s home in Santa Cruz, with his friends doing some of the exercises.
According to Gotliffe, the positive aspect of working on the book was spending time with his family.
Although the book is written for the Jewish demographic, Gotliffe said half of the book’s sales were from people of non-Jewish descent.
As a person of non-Jewish background, I thought The Oy Way was a humorous, yet introspective book that dives into the rich history of the Yiddish language and culture.
The addition of the tai chi movements to each Yiddish expression provides a visual treat that illustrates the little complexities of Yiddish jargon.
The Oy Way is currently available at CreateSpace.com as well as the Spartan Bookstore.
Back to The Oy Way